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Rare Books and Special Collections


From cuneiform, coins, and codices to prints, drawings, photographs, and maps, departments of rare books and special collections are the premier repositories of significant printed and manuscript works and artefacts. Entrusted with the responsibility of preserving the records of history and culture, these institutions enable access to millions of source materials. Berger, a veteran of rare book and special collections, offers a landmark examination of this field. Showing readers everything they need to know about rare books and special collections, this wide-ranging book covers the following key topics:

  • The profession's history and its relevance in the face of an increasingly digital world
  • Archives' relationship to the special collections department and their role in the wider institution
  • Collection development, cataloguing, processing, physical layout, and other operational functions, with coverage of acquisition sources and methods
  • What everyone needs to know about the physical materials in their care, including preservation, conservation, and restoration, storage, handling, and security
  • Reference and outreach services, including a look at exhibitions and tours
  • Fundraising and financial management
  • Legal and ethical issues
  • Forgeries, fakes, and facsimiles
  • Bibliography and its impact on the rare book world, including a look at booksellers, donors, and auctions
  • The present state of books in our digital environment
  • The vocabulary of the trade.

Readership: Aimed at practitioners in the library field, instructors teaching courses on the subject, booksellers, private collectors, historians, bibliophiles, and others involved in rare and unique materials, Rare Books and Special Collections presents a meticulous and systematic understanding of this growing field.

1. Some practical realities 2. Running a rare book department 3. Archives 4. The physical materials of the collection 5. Physical layout and operations 6. Fund-raising 7. Security 8. Legal issues 9. Bibliography 10. Book collecting and handling 11. Outreach 12. Preservation, conservation, restoration, and disaster planning 13. Special collections departments today 14. Other issues
Afterword Appendix 1: RBMS Thesauri and Rare Book Cataloging Appendix 2: Levels of Collecting and the RLG Conspectus Appendix 3: Booksellers' Catalogs and the Business of Selling Appendix 4: Paper Sizes Appendix 5: RBMS Standards and Guidelines Appendix 6: Department Forms Appendix 7: Citing Sources and Plagiarism

Sidney E. Berger is the Ann C. Pingree Director of the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, USA. Since 2002, he has been a professor at Simmons College in Boston, USA, where he teaches Editing Copy and Proof, History of the Book, and Rare Books and Special Collections Librarianship. Sid is also an adjunct professor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA. He has published and lectured widely on literary, bibliographical, and library subjects.

A tour de force compendium of accurate, carefully evaluated information concerning rare books as physical objects and the complex accountabilities associated with special collections librarianship…will serve as an excellent textbook for library school students and employees learning on the job, and could do much to raise standards for directing special collections departments nationally.

Technical Services Quarterly

This splendid book is an essential purchase for libraries that have rare book collections and highly recommended as a reference source for libraries whose patrons have inquiring minds.


a valuable resource for special collections librarians and students hoping to join their ranks.

College & Research Libraries

For students, this book is an indispensable introduction to rare book librarianship, though it works equally well as a self-paced ready reference for library professionals, book history scholars, book dealers, etc.

Information & Culture: A Journal of History

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